Friday, 30 November 2007

Slow Emotion Replay

The past few days have been defined by some serious sleep deprivation courtesy of Miss Twenty-Months-old-and-getting-four-big-teeth-all-at-once. Consequently voices sound as if they’re coming from the other end of a long tunnel, and the atmosphere feels like it’s been replaced with some kind of thick fluid manufactured by the DuPont Corporation.

This week I’ve also happened to drive past a few of the old nursing homes in which I once used to celebrate Communion. They’re nasty places, reeking of urine and stale savoury mince served in a cruel parody of what you and I call dinner. Where you end up parked if you’re poor - or even just not quite middle class - and have the misfortune to outlive your body and/or mind.

Visiting these people was my favourite part of parish ministry; when the Eucharistic Sacraments became most real. Men and women would dribble, grab hold of me and spit in my ear, then laugh while cursing uproariously. Claws gripped in equal portions by dementia and arthritis grasping at my surplice for another drink. Or genteel ladies and long-retired freemasons apologising profusely for the behaviour their of fellow patient-prisoners: betrayed by age, and weeping for the desolated temple which was once their body, these were the ones cursed with a crystal-clear mind. The harshest affliction of all.

It is expressly forbidden in Sydney to reserve any element of the Sacraments; any consecrated remnants must be consumed by the Priest in the presence of the congregation. The chalice would be coated with a greasy film, and my reason would silently scream everyrything I’d ever learned about hygiene when faced with the breadcrumb-flecked soup that remained. And I’d drain the chalice with pride, for God had called me to be a Priest, and this was the least I could do for these Children of God in their agonisingly slow transition between this world and That-Which-Is-To-Come.

If you've been kind enough to read elsewhere on this blog you'll know it wasn't the bacteria that ended all this. No point going over it all again here, but I’d love to go back to those nursing homes. Nowadays there’s no longer any Priest visiting them; the demented and defecating don’t constitute a strategic use of ministry resources. Mercifully the people I knew will have died long ago, but such is the world that there’ll be others like them filling the same stained mattresses. The white metal bed-frames won’t have changed.

Last year I asked for permission to once again conduct services in these places, but the Diocesan offices didn’t reply to my letters ...

Since I’m not interested in being on the receiving end of legal action from the multi-millionaire who owns most Australian nursing homes, I’m not going to show a photograph of any of the places I’ve just written about. Instead here’s a video from the Matt Johnson’s The The. It’s a song called Slow Emotion Replay, and it sums up a lot of what I’m feeling right now. Watch out for the wonderful Annie Sprinkle among the cast of glorious eccentrics.

And because I know my taste in music isn’t to everyone’s taste, and I quite understand that, here’s the words. They say it almost as well.

The more I see
The less I know
About all the things I thought
were wrong or right,
And carved in stone.
So, don't ask me about
War, religion or God
Love, sex or death
Because ...

Everybody knows what's going wrong with the world
But I don't even know what's going on in myself.

You've gotta work out your own salvation
With no explanation: to this Earth we fall,
On hands and knees we crawl.
And we look up to the stars,
And we reach out and pray
To a deaf, dumb and blind God who never explains.

Everybody knows what's going wrong with the world
I don't even know what's going on in myself.

Lord I've been here for so long
I can feel it coming down on me;
I'm just a slow emotion replay
Of somebody I used to be.

Ok, maybe it's not as bad as all that. But if anybody out there knows a Bishop who'd let a ne'er-do-well Priest do something vaguely vocational out on the edges somewhere please don't be shy about dropping me a line. Because I miss being useful, and not just because I'm feeling so tired. Thanks.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

"Sydney firm on women bishops"

I did not make this headline up. I couldn't. Honestly. See for yourself.

Nor will I succumb to the temptation to make smutty jokes about the Viagra working at last. As long as they're adults and everything is consensual it's entirely their own business.

Saturday, 24 November 2007


As I write this the Rodent who has torn Australia apart is conceding defeat: John Howard's grubby regime has been soundly thrashed in today's election.

It's still debatable, but it's even looking as though Howard has lost his own seat, which makes him only the second Australian PM in history to sufffer the ultimate electoral ignominy.

The first, in 1929, was this charming creature, Viscount Stanley Bruce. He probably wasn't quite as dismal as he looked, but that's also debatable.

Beyond debate, however, is the fact that the past eleven and a half years of lies, human rights abuse, racism and environmental vandalism are over.

Thanks to everyone around the world for your prayers!

Friday, 23 November 2007

Moore College helps local businessman.

For decades students at Moore Theological College - the institution from which you must graduate if you'd like to be ordained in the Sydney Anglican Diocese - have got their jollies by purchasing the occasional naughty magazine, along with a newspaper in which to hide it, from the newsagent and bookstore across the road. Run by local identity and prominent atheist Bob Gould, his shop provided a much-needed safety valve for over-heated ordinands.

Sadly the internet put an end to Bob’s once flourishing trade, but now the Moore College principal, Rev. Dr. John Woodhouse (pictured left) is fighting to turn the clock back and ensure Moore men once again buy their porn the old-fashioned way. On he announced that students and faculty must now equip their computers with a nosey little thing called Covenant Eyes.

I am asking all students and faculty to register and install a software program on their computers called the Covenant Eyes. This software logs all internet sites visited by the computer and reports to a person nominated by the user.

Given Moore has so often in the past been accused of failing to interact with the surrounding community, this represents a wonderful step forward in getting the lads back out into local businesses, and the increased income generated for Bob will surely go a long way to healing the rather bitter feelings he is believed to have towards Sydney Anglicans.

At the same time it also proves Sydney Diocese really does have respect for tradition, irrespective of what their critics may claim. Out with the digital hokey-pokey, and back in with the sticky pages of a whacking-stash hidden beneath old sermon notes: just like things always used to be. But when it comes to results, and really helping men resolve concerns involving their sexuality, don’t take my word for it – just look at what the Covenant Eyes web site says:

“All I can say is that Covenant Eyes has been a life saver for me! What was once a dark alley is now a brightly lit avenue. I’m still tempted. Occasionally, I even catch myself lingering on a lingerie ad or something like that. But I know that Covenant Eyes will even highlight those sites, and my partners (my wife, counselor, and pastor) will know about it, so I leave immediately.”

Lingering on a lingerie ad ??? Shit!! And to think I waste my energy worrying about indigenous infant mortality levels, or racism, or the gay adolescent suicide rate...

No wonder they say I’m destined for the fires of hell.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Who are the Duck Noodle Gang?

When studying for ordination it seemed everyone had a label except me. There were Evangelicals, Bible-believing Evangelicals, Reformed Baptists, Gospel-focused Presbyterians, Evangelistic Calvinists, Pauline Student-Workers and even an Evangelical Liberation Front, who were actually very nice fellows, and most of them have long since left Sydney diocese. Yet I couldn’t wear any of these labels on my heart, since none of them felt even remotely like somewhere I might belong.

On weekday mornings I’d walk my daughter to pre-school. We’d shortcut through a park, passing a long sandstone wall featuring spray-painted letters almost a metre high:

Duck Noodle Gang - broken-hearted disillusioned desperates against meanness and nastiness, greed and stupidity

Perhaps it was only a precursor to the madness that later almost devoured me, but I grew to love this strange graffiti. My mind, marriage and dreams were turning to dust, but the message of the Duck Noodle Gang stood in contrast to the labels which were around me being used to confer power and authority upon their bearers, and to exclude and destroy those upon whom their bearers frowned.

This became my silent joke. When fellow students boasted of their credentials, I’d smile to myself; “I’m just a broken-hearted disillusioned desperate against meanness and nastiness, greed and stupidity. I’m one of the Duck Noodle Gang.”

The years passed, and the pressure of belonging to a machine which crushes all who dare be different also crushed me. The little girl who once walked alongside me is now an adult, and although I think of her every day, I fear she’s yet to see the land beyond the machine’s shining lies for herself. Condemn me for the past if helps you, but please realise my prayers are never far from her side, nor - if only she could understand this - are her cries from mine.

I’m no longer licensed to officiate in Sydney, and the world to which I once belonged either thinks I’m dead, or wishes I was. But I’m not, and neither are a great many others like me; we are those whom the darkness couldn’t kill. Sydney diocese may no longer consider me a ”Bible Teacher” (they don’t like the title “Priest” – it’s “Not Reformed”), but the Duck Noodle Gang still rides the wild ranges of faith in a quest against those things which nobody should ever be frightened into believing.

And the name “Duck Noodle Gang” strikes me as funnier than ever – the sheer Goon-like/Pythonesque ridiculousness of it seems inherently Christ-like. Visions of earnest doctrinal warriors beseeching their god to smite the blaspheming broken-hearted disillusioned desperates against meanness and nastiness, greed and stupidity always start me chuckling – “Oh Father God, of all the evils which conspire against thy word, we ask in your son’s name that you may reveal your might against the Duck Noodle Gang.” You’d better believe that I’ve known a great many men capable of praying that with a straight face, but these days I can't imagine listening to them without bursting out in laughter.

Ok, so I’m only aware of three currently active Duck Noodle Gangsters, and two of them are dogs. We're hardly a mega-church. Yet in reality there’s millions of us, separated by nothing more than space and time. Like Calvin’s “hidden elect”, most gang members mightn’t realise their true status, but this in no way diminishes their standing. If you ever feel like joining then please consider yourself a member. The Gang’s pretty easy going about such things ;-)

The writing has almost faded, but you can still make it out if you know where to look. Most of the finest things in life are like that …

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

This is what we live with.

Something I love about the blogosphere is that it helps remind me that Anglicanism is more than just the Sydney Evangelical monoculture, and that in many parts of the world congregations embracing a more inclusive theology are not forced to live below the radar lest they draw too much attention to themselves. Dissent in these places doesn't invariably result in the appointment of a "bible-believing” clergyman to crush the “troublemakers” and steer everyone back onto the approved “biblical” track.

Yet the blogosphere’s downside is that it also forces me to remember just how insane the situation here has become, and that can be depressing. There is no way, for example, Akinola could ever have been appointed bishop in Sydney: his love of lurid (and often downright funny) vestments would brand him as “popish”, “liberal” and “unscriptural”. My international friends consider him an arch conservative, but here it’s unlikely he’d even be granted a license, since his clerical get-up flags him as "unreformed", and thus possibly liberal and sub-Christian. The business suit is our Archbishop's preferred vestment, and prior to my own ordination all candidates were required to sign a statement promising to “never wear a chasuble while in the diocese of Sydney”. Akinola's crazy mitres alone would cause meltdown.

It’s because of this sort of nonsense that I’m not sure a move to “flying bishops” is a necessarily bad thing. If congregations could be established under the oversight of, for example, interstate or New Zealand bishops (or better still, +Robinson) there could finally be an Anglican ministry to the tens of thousands of who’ve been spat on for so long by the Pharisees.

I realize how angry and bitter this will seem to people who’ve never experienced things here, so I’m going to break my own rule against linking to any of the hard-core Sydney sites in order to give an idea of what we’re up against. But first a little background:

Every January the Christian Missionary Society runs a 6 day conference in Katoomba, a mountain resort about 2 ½ hours drive west of Sydney. Known as “Summer School” (but generally abbreviated as “SS”: the imagery this invokes always appears to escape the faithful), it’s a popular gathering for the Sydney diocese’s elite, as well as those who’d like to be.

However this year some are calling for a boycott because one of the advertised speakers is a woman. Yes, a woman with 37 years’ missionary experience and the author of several books, but a woman regardless. Which means the hardliners claiming to represent the Sydney Evangelical orthodoxy believe God has forbidden her to teach if men are present. No, these people aren’t part of the Taliban, but through a quirk of history they control of one of the world’s largest and wealthiest Anglican dioceses. And they believe themselves to be the future of the broader communion.

Three last points before I give the link to this nasty-but-typical gem. Firstly you’ll notice most comments questioning the official misogyny are made anonymously. Even those who disagree with only minor details of the writer’s odious exegesis are not prepared to give their name - that’s because the threat of retribution here is real. Speaking out costs ministries, or those of people you hold dear. Dissidents are actively excluded from parish life.

Secondly, notice how towards the end of the comments the true believers begin complimenting each other on how lovingly they’ve handled the topic and those who disagree with them. Having dismissed people’s relationship with God, their call from God, their ability to read and comprehend Scripture - even their very identity, they then want to believe they’ve done all this “in love”.

Thirdly: if you can bring yourself to read far enough into the comments you’ll see that at the blog’s owner recommending a critic read a tract by one of the Jensens in order to obtain an understanding of Christianity. Not the Bible, but a tract! These people might talk about the Bible ad nauseum, but when it comes to defining the faith they retreat to simplistic and formulaic propositions, not the rich and complex narrative they profess to trust. Jesus first hand is too prickly, too complex. Better to keep him at a distance, filtered through an approved “teacher”.

That’s more than enough from me read this link and reach your own conclusions. If you find it upsetting (and I certainly do) don’t say you haven’t been warned…

… and if you could afterwards please spare a moment to think about those of us trying to change things here, and maybe even to pray in whatever manner feels comfortable for you, we would be really appreciative.


Sunday, 18 November 2007

Are you lookin' at me?

This morning was spent photographing kangaroos for a web site I'm currently working on (yeah, it's a tough life, but someone's got to do it ;-). When the distinguished gentleman above (undoubtedly a regular visitor to this blog) was asked his opinion of the current state of Sydney Anglicanism, his feelings were clear.

Later on I met a simply charming lady, and while we didn't get around to discussing theology or politics, we did indulge in a spot of flirtatious ear-scratching which I'm worried BlackStar & Fiver will consider an act of heart-breaking infidelity.

Things didn't escalate as far as any snogging, but gee it's great for a fellow's ego to know someone as beautiful as her thinks he smells nice - although it might actually have just been my camera that she liked.

Still, I can dream. (sigh)

Friday, 16 November 2007

John Howard: Slimy since 1955.

John Howard is the most loathsome Prime Minister in Australian history. This dubious honour was once unassailably held by Sir Robert “Pig-Iron” Menzies*; the “Queen & Country” jingoist who resigned his commission at the start of the First World War to avoid the horrors of the Front.

As is all too often the case with his type, Menzies' cowardice didn't prevent him enthusiastically supporting Australia's participation in the carnage of WWI, and as a student he actively (but unsuccessfully, thank God) campaigned for the introduction of conscription. Not that Menzies ever forgot the issue: fifty years later he was able to bypass the messy democratic niceties observed in the years before he seized power. Instead of holding a public referendum, as occurred in 1916 & 17, Pig-iron Bob simply rammed the National Service Act (1964) through parliament and conscripted young Australian men to their deaths in Vietnam.

No, Menzies takes some beating when it comes to the prize for worst Australian PM, but John Winston Howard more than meets the challenge. Viewed on their own, the Children Overboard Affair; the Australian Wheat Board scandal, in which bribes of around $AUD290 million ($US258 million) were paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime in blatant contravention of UN sanctions; or ignoring expert advice on weapons of mass destruction in order to drag Australia into war as George W. Bush’s “deputy sheriff” (we were later magnanimously promoted to the rank of fully fledged sheriff) - are each enough to at least earn Howard the prize as runner-up, but when combined, and then added to his appalling mismanagement of the environment, human rights, the economy (why have interest rates risen six times since he promised his government’s economic prowess would ensure no further increases?) and workplace relations… I won’t go on, but I could. Howard is the worst. Indisputably.

Fortunately all the polls indicate he’ll be gone after Saturday 24 November. If only the damage he’s caused could go with him, but instead we’ll be paying the price of that for decades to come. Yet the writing was on the wall concerning Howard years ago: in 1955 he appeared as a 16 year old contestant on Jack Davey's top-rating radio show "Give it a Go". Here’s a brief excerpt:

All the tell-traits of the man known to his fellow party members as “the Rodent” (and to one former PM as “the unflushable turd”) are there; the smarmy arrogance, the smirking ignorance, and the cock-sure disregard for others. In little Johnny’s world not much has changed since 1955: his religion has shifted from Methodism to Sydney Anglicanism (yep – he’s also one of them), but that’s about it.

John Howard won 100 bars of soap for his efforts on radio that day. Obviously none of it was ever used to wash his mouth out for lying. Pity; we all might have been spared a lot of heartache and bloodshed if someone had just taught him that telling the truth does matter.

*Menzies is Howard's hero. Google and see for yourself.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Fiver is Happy.

My name is Fiver and I am Not A Very Big Dog and it is nearly summer hot and we went splashing in the harbour and digging holes and barking at the squawky seagulls and I ran around and around and around and nearly caught them all while the waves were splishing sploshing up the sand but I am too quick to get splooshed because I ran up onto the green green bouncy grass and rolled all the splashy away.

My name is Fiver and I am Happy.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

The Past is a Foreign Country...

... they do things diferently there.*

The Victorians were fascinating. Ostensibly revolted by all things concerning sex, yet they could erect a fountain like this in Sydney's Botanic Gardens.

The lady here is named "Agriculture", but I suspect the man (there's no way this was made by anyone with breasts of their own) responsible didn't really know too much about rural life in general, and sheep in particular. Or he'd spent wwwwwaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy too much time alone with them, but that's a thought better not pursued.

Either way, am I the only one to think that this sheep looks uncannily like Hugh Hefner? And that this is all more than just a tad creepy?

*L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between, London 1953

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Remembrance Day 2007: Lest We Forget.

It’s rained everyday this past week. We need the rain, but the two dogs who’ve missed their walks are of a different opinion. Since it’s clearing today we’ve seized this opportunity to get out, and because the dog park doesn’t become a leash-free zone until 5pm we’re in our local church yard: an old and very overgrown cemetery surrounding a pseudo-gothic Victorian fantasy. It’s an interesting place for both dogs and humans alike, they dig holes, chase lizards and wonder, while we read the tombstones, tap our blogs on laptops, and wonder.

The church itself is somewhere I know well; long ago, in what seems like a previous lifetime, I served here as Catechist. It was my final year of study prior to Ordination, and my Rector was a brilliant Priest; a God-sent antidote to the bravura of my fellow Ordinands and our lecturers during the rest of the week. Do I need to mention he also no longer serves in Sydney?

On the vestry wall there is, or was – it’s been many years since I was inside – a picture of the 1912 parish cricket team. Undefeated at the end of the season, the players grin with the confidence of young men who, having proved themselves unbeatable at their favourite sport, are now certain of victory in everything else life may offer.

Further inside the church, on the bare sandstone walls (this is a Sydney church, after all), in a dark and forgotten corner (ditto) is a simple war memorial, erected in 1919. Made in wrought iron at one of local foundries then dominating the suburb, it lists those parishioners who enlisted in the Great War. Nearly all of the cricket team is named: three quarters were killed, and several more wounded. Only a few appear to have returned home unharmed, but who knows what screams ravished their minds in the night? Post-traumatic stress disorder was a diagnosis more than half a century away, and shattered men-boys were urged to simply “put the past behind them and get on with things.”

Perhaps some did, but facilties at a nearby psychiatric hospital were massively expanded during the 1920s to house the appalling number of returned volunteers whose minds were no longer their own.

The horror that was the “War to End all Wars” is something I can’t even begin to comprehend, but how those survivors felt when they saw the world plunge into conflict time and again during the decades which followed is incomprehensible. Kipling rightly worried that it rendered his own son’s death meaningless, but then Kipling was a man who learned the truth in the bitterest of ways possible, and then had the courage to admit his errors:

“If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied”

If only today's leaders were as honest.

Private Joseph Henry Miller, 56th Battallion of Newtown, New South Wales.
A groom prior to his enlistment on 19 October 1915, he embarked from Sydney on board HMAT Runic on 20 November 1916 and returned to Australia on 23 July 1919.

The Homecoming
by Joseph Lee

When this blast is over-blown,
And the beacon fires shall burn
And in the street
Is the sound of feet -
They also shall return.

When the bells shall rock and ring,
When the flags shall flutter free,
And the choirs shall sing, -
"God save our King"
They shall be there to see.

When the brazen bands shall play,
And the silver trumpets blow,
And the soldiers come
To the tuck of drum -
They shall be there also.

When that which was lost is found;
When each shall have claimed his kin,
Fear not they shall miss
Mother's clasp, maiden's kiss -
For no strange soil might hold them in.

When Te Deums seek the skies,
When the Organ shakes the Dome,
A dead man shall stand
At each live man's hand -
For they also have come home.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

My pencil is bigger than your pencil.

Regular readers and other True Christians™ will know big pencils are crucial to today's cutting edge ministry, and they don't get much bigger than this!

Pictured here showing that size really does matter, the Rev. Diocese McDiocese was all smiles, explaining; "Showing my pencil in the street to unbelievers is exciting, and makes it perfectly clear why God called men to church leadership, and not women - the Bible teaches God gave men the pencils."

Speaking afterwards, a Matthias Media spokesman confirmed they will soon be launching a range of giant pencil ministry aids to assist Evangelical Christians in dioceses where liberals no longer respect the authority of giant imitation writing implements. "Our pencils will, of course, be by far the biggest."

Monday, 5 November 2007

Jesus the Lunatic: the Trilemma Pt.2(b).

The three days spent as an involuntary guest of the New South Wales Health Department, courtesy of Section 31 of the Mental Health Act, cannot be described as the happiest time of my life, but the memory of the second afternoon shall always make me smile.

I’d tried to kill myself. I’d come to sincerely believe there was no place in the world for anyone as worthless, incompetent, and perverted as me. My family, my parishioners, and the men leading my diocese (whom I’d diligently trained myself to respect) seemed as though they’d be better off without me. Dare I say it, but their actions in the years since have proved they probably really did think something along these lines, but from behind the bars of a locked ward the idea didn’t seem anywhere nearly as funny as it does now. Then again, in those days I didn’t realize Jesus was also a lunatic, and it was long before I’d met the wonderful people and dogs who’ve shown me life is more than a set of propositions defining the boundaries of hell and heaven.

It had been a cold afternoon, and I might have been running a fever, and no matter what medicine they gave me I couldn’t stop crying. Into the grey sorrow of my observation ward strolled a disheveled patient: he wore combat trousers, a stained purple singlet with a butterfly across the chest, and impenetrable bleached dreadlocks hung like jungle vines down to his thighs.

“Hi” he said. “You’re new here”. I didn’t know what to reply, so he continued anyway.

“I’m a professional golfer, but I take time off the circuit to stay here because they think I’m schizophrenic. But really I just come here because the food’s so great, and it’s great to have a break from the pressures of competition. Besides, I know everyone in this place. I’ve got great connections.”

This last sentence was said as he came around to my side patting my shoulder. I know about as much about golf as I do of speaking Swahili, but if ever someone didn’t look like a professional golfer, it was him. And yet the confidence with he spoke, and sheer warmth of his friendliness was overwhelming. For a moment the clouds of my tears began lifting.

I couldn’t say much in response, but he didn’t mind: “Don’t worry if you don’t feel like talking. What you need is a good round of golf. The fresh air, the green grass, and the sunshine; there’s nothing finer when you’re feeling down. Come on.”

He helped me to my feet, and began leading me into the corridor. I was too dazed to protest, and he asked “Do you play golf? What’s your handicap?”

Never having played the game, I mumbled something about not having a clue. This only made him even more cheerful: “Fantastic, it’ll be an honour to teach you. Let’s go”

We went to the nurses’ station, where having scrounged a tape measure and assessed my dimensions, he calculated my ideal club sizes. I wsa then encouraged to try several different imaginary sets, taken down from an imaginary shelf which only he could see. Eventually the right clubs were found: “They’re a bit pricey, but don’t worry. My sponsor takes care of all that, and it’s important to start out with good equipment from the beginning.”

I can’t recall if any of the nurses tried to intervene during this process; the enthusiasm with which this new friend was introducing me to something he loved was so infectious that I only remember the magic joy of his world, which began filling mine like the warm sunshine of morning. There was a long apology regarding why I couldn’t be fitted for a new pair of golf shoes (footwear other than the regulation patient’s slippers was forbidden on the ward), but, as he explained, the greenkeepers took this into account when preparing the course.

Carrying my new imaginary golf bag, filled with imaginary clubs personally selected for me by an international professional, I was brought me back into the ward. This was the tricky bit, he explained.

“They keep the course here camouflaged, so that doctors in the other parts of the hospital don’t get jealous of our facilities. Until you get the hang of it, it’s probably best if you just close your eyes and let me describe what’s going on. That’ll also help you concentrate on developing a good clean swing.”

And so for the next few hours we played 18 holes, travelling through the ward, out into the grimy concrete exercise yard (surrounded by high fences topped with barbed wire – my friend lost a ball through that fence, and penalized himself the requisite number of strokes as a consequence), and back inside again through the empty rooms and storage areas. Each stroke I made, whether drive or putt, was carefully described and analyzed: after a while I began to get a feel for keeping my back straight, or angling my body slightly to account for the prevailing cross-winds. He was a brilliant instructor; a natural teacher who made every mistake an opportunity to learn something new, and every success a cause for spontaneous celebration. His joy when I scored a hole-in-one on the 15th was overwhelming, and when I repeated this feat on the 17th we were both jumping with excitement.

Tallying the card at the end of the game showed we ended in a tie – a result he considered truly astounding given it was my first game. Unlike me, he hadn’t managed any hole-in-ones, but experience of the course, coupled with years on the pro-circuit, had kept him consistently just under par, balancing us out. We weren’t allowed personal possessions in the ward, but from beneath his blankets he produced a half-consumed bottle of Spumante (“We need to remember this occasion with a toast in the finest French champagne”). How he had managed to have a personal alcohol cache I shall never know, but neither shall wine ever taste finer than that warm, flat, sickly-sweet sip from a paper cup surreptitiously removed from the water-cooler waste basket.

It was then time for the evening meal, and soon after I fell asleep, exhausted. The next morning I was woken early, and transferred to a different hospital. I’ve never played golf since, nor do I expect I shall. Some experiences can never be repeated, and are best left to stand alone.

I’ve never seen my friend again either, although I have tried to track him down and would dearly love to be able to help him in return – if such a thing be possible. It doesn’t matter so much though; I know we’ll meet someday. When we do I won’t be in the least bit surprised to learn he wasn’t a human at all, but actually an angel. Or more likely both.

At this point I can hear the evangelical lurkers (don’t worry guys, I know you’re there ;-) thinking “But you haven’t said a thing about Jesus, or even mentioned the Scriptures.” They’re quite right, of course. I haven’t, at least not in the propositional sense they’ve been taught to believe is the only authentic means of communicating Christianity. In my defence, however, I’d like to point out that neither did C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell when they insisted Jesus can be either a lunatic, or Lord, but not both. In fact, that these two could have suggested this makes me wonder if they’d ever heard any of the absurd things Jesus said. Weird stuff like “love your enemies” or “in my father’s house are many mansions”. Statements no sane person could imagine making.

Nowadays I think of Christianity as a kind of madness: that this whole messy business of incarnation and blood is a terrible folly we embrace lest we never again know what it is to be of sound mind and peaceful heart. We believe and we love, and therefore we shun that which the darkness calls sane. We are lunatics, and therein fnd our reason restored.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Jesus the Lunatic: the Trilemma Pt.2(a).

This clip won't make sense, but why I've posted it just might once you read Jesus the Lunatic Pt2. I'll try and have it up in a day or so.

Till then watch this: it's a pretty accurate depiction of how my life became for a while...

It's by an Australian team called "The Avalanches". I don't know much more about them, but if I ever need someone to produce my autobiography as a musical they'll be who I call.

Friday, 2 November 2007


European settlement of Australia didn’t really begin until 1788, and was founded upon a lie; the legal fiction of terra nullius (a Latin term meaning “nobody’s land”) - even though there were as many as 750,000 people already living here - maybe more. Their communities, beliefs, and cultures varied greatly, and there were approximately 700 different languages spoken. Yet no matter what they believed, or however they talked, they were all people. Like you and I they hoped, wept, and dreamed of making love in the warm afternoon sunshine. They had children, and dogs, and enjoyed chasing sticks together.

This picture was probably taken sometime during the 1920s. It’s a fountain erected in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, a sixty year period which witnessed the Aboriginal nations’ decimation by a combination of disease, loss of land (causing starvation), and outright murder. An estimated 90% of the indigenous population died during this time, and it was widely held, even among those sympathetic to the Aboriginals’ plight, that Australia’s indigenous peoples would soon become extinct.

The fountain is still standing, and last weekend we strolled around it just like the people in this picture. In the base are bronze panels of Aboriginals, who are depicted as demurely (and oh-so obediently) underpinning the civilization above. There’s no record of who the models were; I doubt that their names were considered worth recording by the socialites who commissioned the fountain. These survivors of a century-long attempt at genocide were nothing more than the vestiges of a superseded race, about to vanish into history forever.

But they didn't, and I’ve grown haunted by their faces.
Especially this man:

Rest in peace, mighty warrior. Your people have survived, and your land still sings the story of your blood. Pray for us, the descendants of those who brought your people death, that we might be cleansed from our sin. Forgive us, for we are sorry.

Jesus the Liar: the Trilemma Pt.1.

The real reason I’ve taken so long to get this post up has nothing to do with contentious title: it’s just that I couldn’t find an appropriate picture, and I’m not confident in my ability to convey what I mean with words alone.

You see, by “liar” I don’t mean someone who says what they know to be untrue – like the stereotypical used-car salesman, or politician. Jesus wasn’t a con artist, so please don’t start frothing at the mouth in a delusion that I’m trying to claim he was.

Yet so many things Jesus said contradict the golden truths of our age that it’s impossible for me to not tick the "liar" box. “Blessed are the poor”; “the first shall be last”; “leave tomorrow for tomorrow” – all these (and countless more similar sayings) cut so deeply against the grain of our society’s accepted wisdom that most churches I’ve experienced prefer to ignore them, or else explain them in such away as to suggest they actually mean the diametric opposite.
I’m not comfortable with these exegetical sleights-of-hand. I’d rather just admit that in some kind of absurdist game Jesus contradicted everything society taught me to be true.

Where that leaves giant pencils and mock ballot papers, I’m not sure. This one was sticking out above the footpath, ready to impale anyone not prepared to vote according to the parish mission’s party line. I wanted to ask if it would be ok to tick more than one box, but there wasn’t anyone to talk to. Perhaps it wasn’t really an imitation pencil at all, but a giant missile prepared for remote launching against people trying to complicate things.